Movie conglomerate Lotte Cultureworks is poised to become South Korea’s leading distributor for the first time in 15 years. The company is expected to overtake CJ Entertainment, which has dominated distribution in the world’s fifth largest theatrical market since 2003.
Lotte’s rise back to the top was driven by its own “Along With the Gods” franchise and, as Paramount’s sub-distributor in Korea, by the blockbuster performance of “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” which earned $50.3 million. (“Gods” Part I earned $104 million, with $47 million of that falling in 2018, while Part II took $92.5 million this past summer.)
According to the Korean Film Council’s data service, Lotte distributed 14 films, including both local and foreign titles, between January and November. They generated total revenue of $260 million and accounted for 18.1% of the total box office during that period, putting Lotte ahead of Walt Disney Korea and CJ Entertainment. CJ had a 12.2% share through the end of November, earned from 15 releases.
The performance is a huge fillip for Lotte Cultureworks, which was previously known as Lotte Entertainment. It was spun off as its own unit earlier this year by parent company Lotte, which has activities stretching from hotels to food manufacturing.
Even after the separation, Lotte Cultureworks remains a vertically integrated group. It is active in film production, finance, distribution and exhibition, operating Korea’s second-largest cinema circuit.
For 2019, Lotte’s key Korean titles include human drama “The Witness,” set for release in the spring; crime drama franchise movie “Tazza 3: One Eyed Jack”; supernatural action-horror title “Divine Fury,” targeting a summer release; and “The Ordinary Jiyoung: Born in 1982,” an adaptation of the feminist story of the same title that is the biggest selling novel in Korea in nearly a decade. The slate also includes “Instruction Not Included,” a Korean remake of a Mexican story, sourced from Globalgate, which this year provided Lotte with “Intimate Stranger,” a remake of Italy’s “Perfect Strangers.”
Presenting the company’s 2019 product lineup at the recent CineAsia conference, executive Justin Choi acknowledged that the Korean theatrical market has now largely ceased growing. That points to the company expanding in international markets if it is to continue to grow. One of its target markets is Indonesia, where Lotte opened its first multiplex this month.